Parties splash out cash in bid to boost candidates
An increase in the limit for election expenses has prompted some political parties to inject more funds into their candidates' campaigns for the District Council polls.
Although most parties said the size of their war chests would have no direct impact on their chances of winning next month, the Liberals and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong have boosted the sponsorship amount for each of their candidates.
In the first adjustment in 13 years, the government raised the campaign ceiling by HK$3,000 to HK$48,000, in light of inflation.
The HK$10-per-vote government subsidy for Legco election candidates has now also been extended to the District Council polls. Candidates who secure 5 per cent or more of the votes cast will qualify for the subsidy, capped at half of the actual amount spent. According to government analysis of the expenses declared in the 2003 polls, 85 per cent of the candidates spent less than 80 per cent of the ceiling, or less than HK$36,000.
The DAB has earmarked more than HK$4 million for its 177 candidates. Each hopeful will be given HK$24,000, up from HK$22,500 in the previous polls.
The Liberal Party has also pledged to finance each of its aspirants up to half of the ceiling.
The Democratic Party is giving each non-incumbent candidate HK$7,500, which only must be repaid if they are elected. Loans of up to HK$25,000 are available for candidates in financial need.
Democratic Party legislator Lee Wing-tat said the outcome of the elections would not be significantly influenced by how much a party spent. 'Unlike the Legco elections, with a cap of up to HK$2.5 million, the ceiling in District Council polls is just HK$48,000. The effect of spending a little more or a little less is marginal,' he said.
Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood executive director Hui Kam-shing said the previous arrangement of a HK$30,000 loan for each non-incumbent candidate would continue to apply.
'We don't really feel the increased ceiling will make a big difference. That's why we have kept the loan amount unchanged,' he said.
The group used to waive repayment of the HK$30,000 loan for candidates who lost in previous polls. But its candidates are now required to repay the amount regardless of whether they win or lose.
Liberal Party legislator Howard Young dismissed suggestions that the party would knock out its rivals with lavish campaigns. 'It depends on the how much effort one has put into serving the district, not whether his party is rich or poor,' he said. But he conceded that the higher spending limit would allow candidates to spend more on canvassing.
The Civic Party, which has earmarked HK$1 million for its first city-wide election campaign, will give candidates a donation of HK$15,000, plus a HK$15,000 loan for those in need.
How parties finance candidates in district council elections
Individual campaign spending limit HK$48,000
HK$7,500 subsidy for new candidates (repayable only upon being elected)
Loan up to HK$25,000 if needed
Total budget about HK$2 million
Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong
Total budget about HK$4.25 million
Total budget about HK$1.3 million
Another HK$15,000 loan if needed
Total budget about HK$1 million
Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood
HK$30,000 loan for non-incumbent (repayable win or lose)
Total budget about HK$500,000